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One Batman writer is bringing trauma therapy to the entire DC Universe

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Finally, somebody can just give all the Robins a hug

Bruce Wayne, with his recently murdered parents, Batman: Year One, DC Comics, 1987.
Bruce Wayne, the original trauma-driven superhero.
David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics

Tom King’s best-selling run on Batman is all about the character trying to move past his trauma — and it looks like the writer is going to be applying that philosophy to the rest of the DC Universe very soon, in something known only as “Sanctuary.”

“Sanctuary’s the most obvious idea I think I’ve ever had,” King told the audience at the “The Aftermath: Battle & Trauma in Comics” panel at this weekend’s DC in D.C. event.

“The DCU has a bunch of superheroes and all they do is fight, every time, and that must have a psychological effect on them, right?” he continued. “You can’t live a life of violence and not feel that violence deep in your heart ... So, [Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have] set up something called Sanctuary, which is a place that you can go, modeled on veterans’ crisis centers — which is an interesting name for them — and talk about this trauma and admit that this had an effect on you.”

But what exactly is Sanctuary? A new series? An event? Simply an idea that could appear across books — like the Justice League tower, the work of Cadmus or the League of Assassins?

King kept things vague. “Sanctuary” is a concept that could appear across multiple books in DC’s line. But it isn’t the name of an upcoming series — at least not yet.

“There’s a big thing coming that I’m not allowed to talk about,” King said, “but if you follow my Twitter I’ve been dropping some hints.” He’d noted previously that the name “crisis center” could have a particular twist meaning in the DC Universe — where any sufficiently canon-shattering event is inevitably compared to the company’s legacy of status-quo-shattering “Crisis” crossovers.

And eager fans were quick to point out a Crisis-referencing Tweet King had made earlier in the week:

It all sounds very comic-booky and far out in the abstract, but King made it clear that to him, Sanctuary was all about making sure that even the weirdest characters and events are tied to real emotional stakes. Before becoming a full-time comics writer, King was a counterterrorism officer with the CIA, and his comics — Grayson, Sheriff of Babylon, The Vision, Omega Men, Batman, Mr. Miracle — have often grappled with war and conflict, and a hero’s struggle to put their war and their trauma behind them.

“We’re creating a place superheroes can go that mimics the good work people are doing for veterans around the world,” King told the DC in D.C. audience, “where they can have a space where they can actually admit that this violence has had consequences for them and has affected them mentally. So that your greatest heroes, who are inspiring our children, can say proudly: ‘Yes, I’ve had some mental difficulties, and yes, working with people has helped me through them.’ And we don’t hide behind that.”